Spin for Steven
Spin for Steven

Many of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity brothers who will show up Saturday for their annual fundraising event Spin for Steven never got the chance to meet Steven Vanover.

But they know his legacy and are inspired by it.

“Everyone knew him on campus, he had this vibrant energy, he was just such a presence,” said Alex McGrath, chair of the event, and a junior English and Philosophy double major.

This year, the chapter is hoping 500 bikers turn out to the Student Recreation Center to help raise $30,000 for cancer research and scholarships in their fallen fraternity brother’s name.

Steven Vanover died at the age of 24 in 2015, a little more than a year after he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called dsrct sarcoma. He earned his Masters of Engineering from UofL’s Speed School in May 2013 and had just started at Universal Woods in Louisville as a new product development engineer before his cancer diagnosis.

By all accounts, Vanover made the best of his five years at UofL. He played music in a band, made tons of friends and held leadership roles in Pi Kappa Alpha.

Lauren Raque & Steven Vanover
Lauren Raque & Steven Vanover

“Steven loved Pike and his brothers like family, it was such an honor for us when they came to us with this idea,” said Lauren Raque, Vanover’s fiancé and member of the Steven Vanover Foundation. “We all know how much Pike meant to Steven and during some of his darkest times there were Pikes there along the way. To see them continue to give money and time has been amazing.”

McGrath said the fraternity had a biking fundraiser in previous years that netted $500-$800 for a national cause. But after Vanover’s death, the fraternity agreed to reboot the event in his honor and give the funds to the Steven Vanover Foundation. Over the past two years, Pike has raised more than $40,000.

The Steven Vanover Foundation funds a study at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center that can extend the lives of patients with the type of cancer that took Vanover’s life. Funding also goes to academic scholarships for high-achieving students at Speed School and St. Xavier High School in Louisville.

“This is definitely a considerable amount of money coming to our fund and we appreciate Pike so much,” Raque said.

At Spin for Steven, participants ride stationary bikes in 15-minute increments and compete in other activities, such as a mini-bike obstacle course, face painting, basketball and cornhole.

McGrath said Pike alums support the event, as do other UofL sorority and fraternity members and people in the community who knew and loved Vanover.

“In the moments leading up to the event, we’re all waiting to get in, people are dressed up in costumes, there’s just so much energy,” McGrath said. “It’s electric. Everyone is welcome to join us and experience that camaraderie for a great cause.”

Spin for Steven 2

Niki King
Niki King Jones is positive she has the best job at the University of Louisville, serving the communication needs of the departments of fine arts and theatre, the School of Music, University Libraries and Alumni – all the fun, creative stuff. Before coming to UofL in 2015, Niki held communication positions in both private and nonprofit sectors in Louisville, Ky., including at Heaven Hill Distilleries and the Jewish Community of Louisville. For 10 years prior, she was a reporter at various newspapers across the country, most recently The Courier-Journal. Niki graduated from the University of Memphis with a BA in journalism and has a masters degree in community and leadership development from the University of Kentucky.